Rare swell brings pro's to your beach. Do you join them like man or flee like baby?
Three weeks ago, the New York, Jersey region got blown a kiss from tropical depression 10, born from the Nor’easter family. This occurrence is very different from its naughty cousins (hurricanes) born in Cape Verde, tantrum-ing through the Caribbean and pumping long period, semi-closed out lines to the north east.
TD 10, as it’s baptized by the science guys, plays nicer.
It sits benign, off the coast of New York harbor, gently pushing lines of east-south0-east groundswell with trimmed north (west) offshore winds. After a summer of knee-high pain barely remedied by 5’6” fishes, New York and Jersey surfers have a legitimate reason to wax their 6’3”s.
But what if there is a Candyman crawling across the Cross Bronx Expressway salivating, rubbing his palms, waiting to scoop up all your sweets? In this case, our specter takes the form of the Volcom_east team. It’s fingers personified in the form of Mitch Coleborn, Chippa Wilson and Balaram Stack.
As a local, you know what specific jetty will be working (angle, buoy reading, wind etc.). Sunrise hours spent inspecting jetties, groynes and sandbars, compiling secrets over years, are easily diluted and given up to Volcom via a simple phone call to a local surf shop owner.
Can’t blame him. If Gordon Ramsey called your kitchen and asked for your recipe to tuna tar tar, you’d sing faster than a star witness gifted a million-dollar reward and the promise of protection from the FBI.
Now, this is a quiz.
So let’s place you in the scene.
You wake up at 5:30 am Sunday. Walk up to a jetty you know will be firing. You expect to find Christmas morning in September. You do, but only to discover other kids unwrapping your gifts. You watch them. Taking off deeper than you ever could, slicing lips with precision. A cadre of filmers, drones and cheerleaders litter the sand and lineup hooting and yewww-ing every move like it’s Super Bowl Sunday.
And a kind of bile sits in your throat. Just when you thought last week’s three hooks in the pocket were timed perfectly you are reminded where you sit on the surf-timeline-evolution chart. In context, somewhere around enlarged forehead and dragging knuckles .
While there is no shame in “respected, capable local” there is a sobering effect knowing you can be over run at your home spot.
The next step.
Get into the ring and take a chance sparring with nobility and a good possibility of getting boxed out or head to the kiddie pool (still a tantalizing three-to-four foot ) where there is still some sense of perverted pride in saying you’re the best 40 something among soft toppers, 10-year-olds and very old studs wearing hats and sunglasses?
Don't veer too far away from the popular Sri Lankan point…
List the ways a surfer can be disappeared and you don’t, as rule, include death by ancient reptile. But, at the picturesque righthand point Arugam Bay in Sri Lanka, a wave popular with beginners and small-wave shredders, you may now include the crocodile.
A journalist for the Financial Times as well as a newly annointed surfer, Paul McClean, was staying at a nearby surf camp, and had gone to the toilet and then went to wash his hands in a lagoon “known to be crawling with crocodiles,” reports London’s The Sun.
Fawas Lafeer, owner of Safa Surf School, located up the coast from where the incident happened, said: “A local fisherman witnessed a man being dragged into a river, set back from the beach, by a crocodile. The fisherman was on the opposite side of the river and downstream of the incident location.”
He added:“This is the first known crocodile attack in Sri Lanka. Both tourists and locals surf at Elephant Rock, which is a beautiful secluded beach and very safe.
“Crocodiles in Sri Lanka live only in the fresh, back waters of the jungle. It is almost unheard of for them to come close to the beach. The salt water actually turns them blind.
“Local search and rescue teams are working alongside the police and British Embassy in attempt to locate the man’s body.”
Meanwhile, a Scottish tourist, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “A British tourist was at a surf spot called Elephant rock.
“There’s a lagoon right next to the sea. He went to the toilet next to the lagoon and was grabbed by a crocodile.
“There are lots in the lagoon. People last saw his arms in the air in the water and then was grabbed under. Horrible.
The body of Mr McClean, who was twenty five, is yet to be recovered.
A day of revelation on the cobbled stones with the people.
I peeked at my Rolex before the sun came up and it said, “Get thee to the people.” Not literally of course, though I do think Rolex would do well incorporating some Marxist design elements. I sprung out of bed, unfettered by a hangover only having had three Trust Me vodka and organic strawberry lemonades the night before.
Completely refreshed, I took the stairs two at a time toward the kitchen to quickly make a coffee and head out the door. To the Trestle. To you.
But while the grounds were steeping I became hungry and set about preparing poached eggs, smoked Scottish salmon, freshly ground parsley and a quickly whipped hollandaise sauce that would have made Chef Auguste Escoffier smile.
By the time I started driving Mick Fanning and Kanoa Igarashi were in the water surfing their heat re-do from yesterday’s unfortunate mixed call. I didn’t write about that nor did I see it because I was taking my role as object lesson to the people’s children in their utopian professional surf school seriously. Don’t go looking for Coopers and dance, dear children, lest you become a hungover surf journalist like me.
Whilst passing the media tent, which had been moved further south from yesterday’s location inside one of the San Onofre nuclear power reactors to a structure in the United State’s Marine base Camp Pendleton, I listened to Kanoa again getting the jump on Mick with a quick 8 something right at the opening horn. A very fine wave surfed elegantly.
And the heat ended right as I pulled into the $20 parking lot. I was clutching my phone, staring holes through the screen as a set approached, almost running over an electric bicyclist. Kanoa had surfed a few waves, though the ocean did appear very finicky. Mick had seemed to be on the same retirement tour as his good friend Joel, enjoying the gluttony of just sitting in the ocean and not surfing but there was a one wave set approaching and Mick only needed a small score to win. He paddled over it and looked casually out to sea. Into the salad years.
“White lightening is the penultimate competitor. Such a glassy guy…” Joe Turpel said, or something similarly malapropriate, as I backed the ’17 Panamera into its spot. “…And now on to the women. We’ve got Steph Gilmore and coming up next.”
“The women?” I thought but felt energized. “The women! No possible better way to spend my morning for women are the people too!” I quickened my pace, winking at the California State Park policeman who had threatened to give me a ticket when I was driving in for being on my phone.
Hurrying down the trail, over the trestle and through the reeds I marveled. It had been naked, scorching sun for the first three days of the Hurley Pro. Hot unrelenting sun everywhere that the people stood. But this day God had decided enough is enough and given the people a VIP tent of their own. High, thickish grey clouds.
And then I got my first glimpse of Steph Gilmore in the water, arcing one of the most gorgeous turns I have ever seen in my life. So fluid, so on rail, such poetry. The finicky waves of Kanoa and Mick’s heat had given way to pumping oil glass sets and watching Stephanie bag two nines made me wonder, “Could she compete against the men at pointbreaks when the surf is head high and perfect? Could she beat them all?” I know it is unfair to compare men’s surfing and women’s. They are unique flowers. But Steph’s turns mesmerized, although Lima won later in the day with more rad.
I was so mesmerized, in fact, that I ran smack dab into Surfline’s very handsome Marcus Sanders, though he looked perturbed.
“Heading to the media tent?” I asked.
“Didn’t you hear?” He responded. “The Marines are using it in a simulation drill for a North Korean invasion. Bombing sorties, tanks, heavy artillery, battalions of troops running in and all live fire. I’d be shocked if there are any survivors.”
“But I saw Michael Ciaramella and Morgan Williamson from Stab there or at least I saw their cars parked near the Camp Pendleton entrance gate!” I shrieked.
“There’s little hope.” He said while slowly shaking his head. “Notifications have already been sent to next of kin.”
The news saddened me greatly and I was unable to enjoy any more of the women’s heats, instead crouching amongst the people and drawing up plans for Stab-style funerals with a stick in the dirt. It would have to be something fantastic. Something very grand. Maybe their ashes could be taken to Uluwatu and shot into the barrel while Bruce Irons spread his arms blindfolded? Or maybe their bones could be carved by anonymous surfboard shaper and tested in the lineup by Taj Burrow?
I was leaning toward the second option when a sort of grinding sound distracted me. Looking up I saw one of the people’s very small children sating her hunger by gnawing on a piece of driftwood. Her precious small teeth working overtime trying to find some relief for her hunger.
My heart instantly went out to her. Oh the good Lord had provided shade for the people today but no bread and I had used my morning’s sandwich making time on hollandaise sauce instead. It is of course impossible, and not recommended at all, for the children’s parents to turn away from professional surf action but still.
Suddenly I had an idea. Standing just across the way, talking important surf business with someone, was Hurley’s Evan Slater. And in his pant pocket I spied a small glimpse of a VIP wristband.
“Yes!” I thought. “Yes! I will sneak that VIP wristband out of Evan’s pants and go into the tented areas in order to bring the people’s children their nutrition! I will be a modern Robin Hood. A reverse Bernie Madoff lavishing the people with undeserved, unearned gifts and will become a hero to them but will not allow them to build statues in my likeness on Lowers’ cobbled stone nor will I allow HBO to make a special about me starring Alexander Skarsgård.
“No!” I will shout. “No! Spend your time and energy building statues of working class hero Stu Kennedy instead for he is not a real Kennedy but a grimy Australian one. Make HBO specials about Bede Durbidge starring Rhys Ifans and the people will come.”
I hurried and snuck over to wear Evan was standing, wishing I had worn the Louis Vuitton drivers of two days ago instead of the Prada penny loafers of today as they are much softer and quieter. Better for sneaking. Somehow, though I pulled it off and now had a silver ’17 WSL GUEST VIP wristband in my possession.
Should I just give it to the people?
The people will get caught very quickly as it will be very instantly clear they don’t belong. Brazilian flags and dirty Reef sandals being dead giveaways. They will be ushered out and maybe ejected from the beach altogether or worse, taken to the remains of the media tent.
I must go for them and so I marched south with the gilded paravel directly in my sights. I made it to the stairs and said hello to Jon Pyzel who was hurrying back toward the competitor’s area, “John John is in the next heat…” I heard him say.
Which made my mission that much more urgent. Up the stairs I strode, two at a time, and into the place of earthly delights. An exclusive eagle’s nest. A perch where the privileged feast upon handmade breakfast burritos and wash them down with bottomless Michelob Ultras. Shade. Cushioned couches. Water with hints of watermelon flavor hidden inside. It had been so long since I’d been surrounded in luxury I almost forgot how to act, tugging the neck of my pink Balmain button-down until a few of those buttons popped off.
But I could not let the people down.
And so I hurried to a bowl overflowing with fruit resting on a silky blue tablecloth. Strawberries and apples, grapes and bananas, kiwi and dragon fruit. I spotted a juicy pear nestling between a stack of one-hundred dollar bills and a brick of gold bullion.
I moved with vigor and snatched it then fled as quickly as I could to the dirt and rock and Africanized trash bees. Stealing from the rich and bringing to the poor. A modern day Bruce Springsteen.
By the time I had arrived back where I belonged John John was indeed in the water, fighting Jeremy Flores and Kanoa Igarashi in the no losers’ round. I handed the pear to the people’s little angel and she took it from my palm before letting it roll into the sand and then a puddle of Monster Energy Drink.
John John, out the back, was doing the most magnificent arcing turn much like Steph Gilmore’s. The man can do it all. Turn, arc, carve, barrel and air. The people do not need food when John John Florence is in the water. The peoples’ little angels can fill their empty bellies on driftwood and saltwater and greatness instead.
And the rest of the action as witnessed from the shoreline.
Heat 3: (Jeremy vs. John vs. Kanoa)
I have disliked this part of the WSL programing, quite publicly, before but today it was perfect because John John surfed magnificently, filling the people’s li but Jeremy Flores surfed more so and Kanoa Igarashi less so. Kanoa had already beat Mick. John John is John John. Jeremy is revitalized. I wanted to see them all again and thanks to the format I get to. Egalitarian! Jeremy won but John made the better turns but look out for Kanoa.
Heat 4: (Filipe vs. Julian vs. Bede)
Julian is surfing at the very top of his game but watching Filipe in person it almost seems unfair. He sticks 100% of the airs he throws without any doubt ever. He turns on a rail. He can beat any section and the people love him. The people, surrounding me, whooped and hollered his every move in a tongue I couldn’t quite understand. He has it all. He is the new Kelly Slater and if he can put his heat strategy together he may soon be completely unstoppable. Filipe won.
Heat 1: (Ace vs. Jadson)
And we are back to the perilous. Lose and go home. The people, of course, enjoy bloodsport and tension rose amongst them. Jadson, even though he drives a simple Toyota RAV-4 and is generally one of their favorites, was simply out-surfed by Ace. The waves were slow but no care and no matter. Ace for the win.
Heat 2: (Jordy vs. Seb Z.)
Never count Sebastian out. No not ever. Only count him out when there are no waves and there is 30 seconds left and Jordy Smith is winning. Is Jordy getting closer to a stranglehold on the title?
Heat 3: (John vs. Bede)
No not a stranglehold for behold, John John! The man with two working-class first names! There was a full seventeen minute lull in the middle here and the people became very uneasy and hungry once again because of the no surfing. I would have gone to the high VIP places and brought them steaming pasta alfredo and caviar but… John John. He is a magician. And I was right not to leave. The waves turned on and he put on a show that will fill the people’s bellies until dinner.
Heat 4: (Kanoa vs. Julian)
Very tense. Wrought with tension. Much for you to discuss in the comments. Kanoa won.
Heat 1: (Li’l Plumber vs. Ace)
So close. Heat restart. Ace stoked to be alive on finals day. And I’ll admit, I’ve left the people. I’ve driven the Panamera home and am sipping more Trust Me vodka and organic strawberry lemonades and feeling so invigorated. When was the last time you were with the people? I’m telling you, their scent is even more stirring than cocaine.
Heat 2: (Fred vs. Jordan)
Are they the same person or is that the vodka writing? Is Frederico like Weight Watchers Jordy? The “before” of the “before and after” Jordy? I passed Jordy on the trail. I was hot. Hurrying. Thinking about what else I could steal from the rich to give to the poor. Should I put one of the people in the Panamera and drive him to an Occupy Wall Street protest? Is Occupy Wall Street still a thing? Jordy was so crazy focused. He was like a boxer with his hype boys behind carrying surfboards. Maybe I should ask one of his hype boys? But they were gone before I could and now he is surfing against Fred and it is a seesaw battle. Pottz is getting hot. Bothered. He loves it. Jordy gets a good wave and does a better claim. Double shaka to chesty.
Oh yes there were no losers today. The people were given benevolent gifts. Heaven’s shade, man’s pear, Steph, John John and Filipe’s free and public performance art.
No losers at all.
Except for Jadson, Sea-bass, Bede, Julian, Adriano and Fred.
What happens when there is too much bawdy downmarket fun? Come and learn a lesson.
Yesterday was my second full day with the people and what a day it was. I’ve become addicted to the scent of paraben-laced spray-on sunscreens. The eau de McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches. We are the same, you and me. From the tips of our sun kissed hair to the soles of our Gucci loafers. And as I left Lower Trestles parking lot I wanted to be with you more. To know the innermost secrets of your proletarian heart.
But where do you go? McDonalds? I wasn’t hungry having feasted on the bread of the people all day and also almond butter and organic raspberry jelly organic bread sandwiches. But I was thirsty. Yes, extraordinarily thirsty having stood shoulder to shoulder with you plus our Brazilian brothers and sisters in the blazing sun. And having eaten an almond butter and organic raspberry jelly organic bread sandwich.
We all turned our reddening necks, from time to time, and watched the VIP set sip daintily from a never drying fount of Michelob Ultra in their shaded villa but there was none for us. Only the occasional spray from Ace Buchan’s backhand turns.
But now where do you drink? Taverns right? Saloons? Well there is a saloon very near my home named The Saloon and that’s where I headed, pushing though the door and into a delightfully rustic interior expecting to enter the very center of bawdy, downmarket fun. Like that scene in Titanic where Kate Winslet realizes how free poor people are.
But you weren’t there. The Saloon was, in fact, empty except for a very fine man with wonderful taste in preschools who works for Surfer magazine. We drank Coopers. None of that fancy Michelob Ultra stuff. Coopers. Coopers after Coopers after Coopers.
When I woke up in the morning my head pounded. My eyes were red. My head pounded. Did I already say that? But the people go to work hungover after nights of bawdy downmarket fun and so off to Lower Trestles I went.
I got there late, missing out on $20 parking and having to park near Carl’s Jr thus walking for 30 minutes in the blazing sun. Still, how could I let one minor inconvenience sour my mood? The people pick grapes in this blazing sun before attending surf contests. They scrub Porsches clean in local car washes in this blazing sun. And so I cuffed my Comme des Garçons trousers and sallied forth, down the dirt, through the reeds, back to you.
While I was walking Fred Morais was in the water beating Zeke Lau. Fred Morais is a blue collar name but the beach announcer kept saying, “There goes Frederico Morais again laying down his patented long drawn out rail carves…”
One of the great pleasures in attending live surf events is the beach announcers. They are often funnier than the broadcast announcers and don’t jibber quite as much. And I liked Fred Morais’s good working class name but it frustrated me that he patented the long drawn out rail carve. It seems a very 1% thing to do. How do you think he collects money on those surfers who infringe upon his property? Does he fine them per long drawn out rail carve? And how did he secure that patent ahead of Tom Curren et. al.?
My head pounded and I had many questions as I posted up next to a trash can filled with Africanized bees. My eyes burned as the sun pierced my Tom Ford lenses. The people, all around me, cheering now for Wiggolly Dantas but also imploring Ace Buchan to cool them with the spray from his backhand turn started to ring my ears, along with the angry buzz of Africanized trash bees, and I needed a quick break so walked aimlessly toward the media tent some 5 miles down the beach and inside one of San Onofre’s nuclear power reactors.
I had no intention of actually entering the media tent but old habits die hard yet as I was walking I saw signs for the Hurley Surf Club. Now of course this sounds exclusive and elitist but when I arrived discovered that Hurley provides an onsite school, free of charge, for children set on becoming professional surfers.
That’s right free. A Bernie Sanders dream come true.
Beanbag chairs are scattered on the floor and white boards intermix with big screen televisions on the walls. Instructors pause videos of the live action and show the children, sitting everywhere in half-stripped wetsuits and trunks, where the surfers legs are, where their arms are, where their eyes are looking. There is also video of the children shot just moments earlier and the instructors give real time analysis.
My heart melted.
An institution for the people’s children! For the fruit of the working class!
I pressed in further. Every boy and girl was staring at the screen, taking it all in, learning. Loving it. Loving learning. I have never seen a better thing at a surf contest. No not ever. A room packed with hungry learners being gifted a free education.
And I pressed in further still, almost stepping on one young boy. He looked at me with horror in his eyes. All of them did. “Let them stare…” I said to myself “…let them feast their eyes upon me. Hungover, red-eyed, sweaty. Let them absorb what they will become if they drop out of professional surf school and become a surf journalist instead. Let them gaze upon me and let them smell the Coopers on my breath. For this is what happens, children, when bawdy downmarket fun gets in the way of a proper education.”
And I stayed there for much of the day, sunk in a beanbag chair, missing the rest of the action.
Heroes aren’t born they are made. They are made one hammer swing at a time. One CPR chest compression. One throw, one catch, one epic splash.
Oh you saw.
You saw Gabriel Medina one Saturday morning in San Clemente dropping in on a strong-jawed man. You saw the strong jawed man not give up but rather race down the line trying to catch up. You saw Gabriel’s air reverse and then you saw the splash. Maybe even felt the splash.
But let us speak with John from San Clemente. Let us ask him how it felt.
“Yeah, it was a pretty crowded day. Saturday morning just piled out. I was messing around on my log. Gab paddled out after I caught about three waves and just sat right behind me. I went and then he dropped in. I could tell he saw me. At first I thought I could catch up and spear him off his board. I’m kind of half back then he did that stupid air reverse and we both went down. When we popped up I laid into him. Checked him. He didn’t react at all when I shoved him and I was saying stuff in his face too. No reaction though.
“I lost my board and had to go in and get it. Had a feeling people were filming so when I paddled back out I thought I’ve got to blast him. I have lived in San Clemente my whole life. Everybody thought that clip was at Lowers but I never surf there. It was at T-Street. I was surfing the log that day but primarily I’m a bodyboarder. Funny, huh. I used to compete and still do from time to time. And with that whole thing… the shove and splash… I would never do that to one of the local guys. To the Gudangs or anyone. But you can’t just blow in and do that. Gabby’s got a reputation you know? You gotta baptize the savages.”
Shortly after the interview, John texted the following bullet points.
1.) I can’t believe the responses on social media!
2.) I identify mostly as a bodyboarder and resort to surfing as another challenge when the waves are too small to drag.
3.) I was purposely trying to catch up with him to go for the tackle, kinda bummed I didn’t…the clip would have been way cooler!
4.) When I kicked out and he didn’t land the rev, I shoved him and wrote him off, lost my board then paddled back out for the splash.
5.) Gabe played dumb the whole time. Said he thought I was going left.
6.) Surfing sucks.
Now, watch as Gabriel runs over a surfer at Lowers.